By Bukola Olasanmi
Adequate and proper planning has always been the problem of most African cities but no one would expect that Abuja which prides itself as an emerging modern city in Africa would still grapple with the challenge.
The ugly situation makes residents to be at the mercy of law enforcement agencies who daily harass motorists and at times impound their vehicles.
“In Nigeria, every situation is exploited negatively. Everybody knows that there are no enough parking spaces in Abuja but the Directorate of Road Transport Services (DRTS) popularly called VIO and traffic police harass motorists everyday for parking wrongly.
At times, motorists are left in the dark when they get to where they park their cars only to meet empty space at the particular spot.
“I am very sure, this is where i parked this car few minutes ago or am i dreaming, what could have happened just within few minutes”
This and many more have been the situation especially in congested areas like Federal Secretariats that gives little or no provision for parking space
“It is a deliberate means of exploiting Nigerians, an avenue to perpetuate corruption, they are just taking advantage of motorists. Why can the government plan a city like Abuja and there won’t be enough parking space” motorists have daily laments
Findings show that the situation is worst around Area 2, Garki Market and around Wuse Market.
The few parking lots when filled up force motorists to park on the pavement and then incur the wrath of the law.
In most cases, their cars are towed away by either the VIO or FRSC and released to them after paying some stipulated amount.
Motorists park on the pavement on Ladoke Akintola Boulevard and when asked why they parked there, they said: “they don’t know where else to park.
As you can see, all around here parking spaces are filled up. It is a terrible situation but drivers are helpless, because we cannot create parking space for ourselves, the best we can do is park in the wrong places and then fall victims of the law enforcement agents who are ever too happy to remove our plate numbers”.
He, however, explained that sometimes it is not that there is no parking space, but that one is sometimes in a hurry and one thinks it will not cause any harm to park on the pavement for some few minutes before one finishes one’s business and moves on quickly. “Most times you are unlucky and the VIO beats you to it and by the time you come out your plate number is removed and confiscated.”
Another motorist who spoke to this reporter said when government in Nigeria plans, it does not project into the future and that is why there is a problem of lack of parking space.
“If our government plans on the long term, we wouldn’t be having problem of lack of parking space, lack of this and lack of that. But they plan without thinking of the public interest and so everything is a problem. For instance, public buildings and commercial premises are approved by authorities without giving enough room for parking lot, so that is where the problem originally is,” another motorist said
For commercial bus drivers, the situation is a nightmare as they don’t even have to park in places that are supposed to be designated bus stops. Except for long buses called el Rufai buses, and some few private ones hardly park by Wuse Market. If they dare stop there, traffic police would commando style jump into the buses and prevent the drivers from reaching their destinations until they drop a tip.
“I don’t know what they want us to do. If they don’t want a bus stop to exist around Wuse then they should also remove the market from here. Otherwise people board buses to come to the market and where do they expect them to alight? Most times passengers don’t understand the situation and they end up quarrelling and fighting us as if we are the ones that don’t want them to disembark at their destinations.” Ebuka Ugwu, a commercial bus driver that plies Mararaba-Wuse route lamented.
Even around Berger Bus Stop, commercial buses dare not stop there unless police and VIO are not present. Both disembarking passengers and those waiting to board have to be smart like Lagosians before they can jump down at the stop and jump up on the buses.
Yohanna Loko said that it is as if government does not want poor people to live in Abuja that is why everything is against them.
“The issue is simple, government does not want people like us to live in Abuja that is why they can’t even allow us park where we are supposed to park.”
The Federal Capital Territory Administration however said it is leaving no stone unturned to remedy the situtation.
The Minister, Mohammed Bello said with adequate provision for that in the 2018 budget, residents should be able to see the desired changes.